A coalition of 24 state attorneys general sent a letter warning the CEOs of three major credit card companies that a recently announced Merchant Category Code (MCC) for processing gun purchases “is potentially a violation of consumer protection and antitrust laws.”
The coalition is headed by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, and was announced Tuesday morning in a joint press release. The two-page letter went to Stephen J. Squieri at American Express, Inc., Michael Miebach at MasterCard, Inc., and Alfred F. Kelly, Jr at Visa, Inc. Copies were sent to President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with several banking and financial leaders.
“It’s extremely disappointing to see credit card companies cave to pressure from international bodies and adopt this measure that will do nothing to improve public safety,” Attorney General Knudsen said in a prepared statement. “Instead, it invites potential future invasions of consumer privacy and further coordination between corporations and government agencies to erode Americans’ fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen. (Dave Workman photo)
In a brief telephone interview, Knudsen told Ammoland there is a “real danger” to the credit card monitoring effort. He acknowledged concerns among gun owners in Montana and elsewhere the scheme could result in a de facto gun registry.
He said each state has its own consumer protection laws, and this plan could run afoul of such laws.
“Giant financial companies must not use their combined market power to circumvent our representative democracy,” Attorney General Skrmetti stated. “As Attorney General, I protect the people of Tennessee from corporate collusion that threatens to undermine their constitutional rights. Working together with my colleagues from other states, we will marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to stop this abuse.”
The controversy began earlier this month when the three credit card firms announced they had adopted the new MCC. Pressure from anti-gun Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Penn.) also played a part, as earlier reported by Ammoland.
In their bombshell letter, the 24 attorneys general tell the credit card CEOs, “Press releases from public officials make clear that the new merchant code was created and adopted in concert with various state actors, which may additionally create the potential for both civil and criminal liability for conspiracy to deprive Americans of their civil rights.
“Social policy should be debated and determined within our political institutions,” they emphasize. “Americans are tired of seeing corporate leverage used to advance political goals that cannot muster basic democratic support. The Second Amendment is a fundamental right, but it’s also a fundamental American value. Our financial institutions should stop lending their market power to those who wish to attack that value.”
In addition to Knudsen and Skrmetti, the letter is signed by Attorneys General Steve Marshall, Alabama; Treg R. Taylor, Alaska; Mark Brnovich, Arizona; Leslie C. Rutledge, Arkansas; Ashley Moody, Florida; Chris Carr, Georgia; Todd Rokita, Indiana; Derek Schmidt, Kansas; Daniel Cameron, Kentucky; Jeff Landry, Louisiana; Lynn Fitch, Mississippi; Eric Schmitt, Missouri; Douglas J. Peterson, Nebraska; John Formella, New Hampshire; Dave Yost, Ohio; John M. O’Conner, Oklahoma; Alan Wilson, South Carolina; Ken Paxton, Texas; Sean Reyes, Utah; Jason Miyares, Virginia; Bridget Hill, Wyoming, and Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia. All are Republicans.
“The new code will not protect public safety,” the state top attorneys explain. “Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike. First, efforts to track and monitor sales at gun stores would only result in vague and misleading information. This categorization would not recognize the difference, for example, between the purchase of a gun safe and a firearm. Nor would it capture firearm purchases made at department stores, resulting in arbitrarily disparate treatment of ‘gun store’ merchants and consumers.
“More importantly, purposefully tracking this information can only result in its misuse, either unintentional or deliberate,” the letter states. “Creating and tracking this data only matters if your institutions are considering using that information to take further, harmful action—like infringing upon
consumer privacy, inhibiting constitutionally protected purchases by selectively restricting the use of your payment systems, or otherwise withholding your financial services from targeted ‘disfavored’ merchants.”
They further caution the credit card officials that generating a list of people who purchase firearms “creates the obvious risk that law-abiding consumers’ information will be leaked, discovered, hacked, or otherwise obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
“Be advised,” the letter concludes, “that we will marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights. Please keep that in mind as you consider whether to proceed with adopting and implementing this Merchant Category Code.”